Please start by introducing Nasty Women: what it is, and the exhibitions which it has put on and supported to date.
CH: Nasty Women is a global art movement that serves to demonstrate solidarity among artists. It draws together those who identify with being a Nasty Woman in the face of threats to roll back women’s rights, individual rights, and abortion rights. The first Nasty Women event was held in New York in January, and was started by Roxanne Jackson and Jessamyn Fiore.
Since then, the movement has delivered over forty events worldwide. Nasty Women London was founded by Paige Megan Hawley and Rejane Bidi. To mark the International Day of Peace on Thursday 21st September, Nasty Women London x Creative Debuts held their first feminist-themed art exhibition in London with over 3,000 people attending the show.
Forty international artists exhibited at the exhibition, covering a broad range of disciplines such as photography, film, fine art, animation, embroidery, and sculpture. The money raised from the event was donated to support Rape Crisis England and Wales and Women for Women International, protecting women’s rights worldwide.
The Nasty Women London exhibition blurb states that “the human values of equality, fairness and compassion that define British society... are non-negotiable”. Do you feel that these values are, in fact, under threat and if so what can Nasty Women do to counter the threat?
CH: Holding Nasty Women’s first exhibition in London was important as there’s still a lot of work to do to protect and promote women’s rights here in the UK. Women in the UK face a range of issues - from fighting for equal pay to better representation in business and politics, to abortion rights and everyday sexual harassment and the sexualisation of women.
Feminist art actually created opportunities and spaces that previously did not exist for women and artists from minority backgrounds. It also paved the path for the Identity and Activist art of the 1980s. Feminist art invites the viewer to question the social and political landscape, and by questioning, possibly create action that brings change toward equality in society.
These themes across the movement were as important in the 1960s as they are today. This is one of the reasons we held the exhibition on the International Day of Peace (World Peace Day, 21st September). We wanted to bring a spotlight on women’s rights that are often abused or forgotten during times of conflict. We want people to stop and think about the societies we currently live in, and the ones we can create through equality.
Why did you choose these specific artists being exhibited for the first UK show and how did you source them?
CH: Forty artists were chosen to exhibit at the show from as far and wide as Lebanon, Denmark, USA, UK, and Brazil. We held an open call for artists to submit their work and be considered as part of the exhibition. The theme of the exhibition was pretty open and based on the protection and promotion of women’s rights.
We had an incredible response to the open call, and the calibre of artists was high. Forty international artists were selected by a panel formed of myself, Sara Khan (Creative Debuts), Paige Hawley, and Rejane Bidi (Nasty Women London). The artists were chosen based on the work submitted, concepts behind their work, the disciplines they worked in, and ultimately how much they shared the vision of the Nasty Women movement.
We also strongly believed that change requires a collaborative approach that opens up dialogue so men have to be part of that process. As part of that vision we believed it was vital to encourage male artists to apply and be part of the exhibition. We reached out to some artists and others applied through the open call, but all artists (male and female) were judged by the panel based on their concepts for the show.
Continuing with the artists, it would of course be easy as a curator to choose artists and works which provide an overt statement on the topics which NW covers. What was your thinking in terms of how the artists would respond to the brief?
CH: It was important for us that all the artists were free to express themselves as freely as possible within the theme of women’s rights. We were very lucky to have had such a broad range of submissions which made curating the show easier.
We wanted to ensure that the works being exhibition demonstrated the true depths of the modern feminist artists – from fine artists to sculptures and videographers. Each of the artists told a unique story relating to their own experiences as women or the experiences of others.
Given the topics that Nasty Women, as a movement, works with, how important is it for both the organisation and its artists to ensure that it is exhibiting and sponsoring in an accessible way, rather than in a cosy “artworld for the artworld” means?
CH: Inclusivity is at the heart of the work we do at Creative Debuts. This is why we were keen to work with Nasty Women to put on a show that was free for the public to attend, celebrated the talent of women in the art world, and provided an environment for the viewer to question what feminism means in our modern-day society.
What’s next for yourselves and for Nasty Women in the UK?
CH: We had nothing but good feedback from those that attended the exhibition and have been overwhelmed with the support we have received. We want to continue our partnership with Nasty Women and are looking to hold a bigger exhibition in the future.
Calum Hall is co-founder of Creative Debuts.
Find out more about the Nasty Women movement and its London show at the Nasty Women London website.